Well, a lot has been happening in Jamaica and there’s lots of news further afield, too. Please click on the links for more information.
Jamaica and the Caribbean:
Climate Change Awareness Week: It was an exciting week, organized by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and following on from the Prime Minister’s recent participation in COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco. There were several events each day (including a great media workshop on November 29) and wide participation in the conference organized by the Ministry and hosted by the University of the West Indies. It coincided with the visit of the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Dr. Hoesung Lee and several other IPCC officials; if you recall, Professor Emeritus Anthony Chen was among those experts on the IPCC, which won the Nobel Peace Prize, together with then U.S. Vice President Al Gore, in 2007. Several journalists from elsewhere in the Caribbean were there to cover the event; but all the major Jamaican media houses were conspicuous by their absence – despite the high-level participation and opportunities for interviews with some brilliant minds from Jamaica, the Caribbean, U.S., across the region. The live stream of the conference – days one and two – is now posted on YouTube here and here.
UN Opens New Office downtown: All the UN agencies will be gradually moving into UN House, where there is lots of space, in the International Seabed Authority building, next to the Jamaica Conference Centre downtown. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) already has an office in that building. There was a delightful opening ceremony and ribbon-cutting, with UNEP’s Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General Erik Solheim and Minister Daryl Vaz participating, among others. Mr. Solheim identified pollution, oceans and ecosystems as the three key priorities for the Caribbean. I will be writing more about this in a subsequent blog.
Caicos Pine Recovery Project Gets Underway: It’s Christmas, so we are thinking about evergreen trees. In the Turks and Caicos, an effort to replant and restore the native Caicos Pine is underway and today (December 3) was their first annual Caicos Pine Awareness Day. The pine’s roots are covered in symbiotic fungi, seven species, called ectomycorrhizal fungi. These underground fungi help the pine roots absorb nutrients and water and the pine can’t survive without them. At least two of the species of fungi are new to science, and one is a species of truffle! The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the UK and the Turks and Caicos Islands Department of Environment & Maritime Affairs (DEMA) are engaged in a project that seeks to mitigate against climate change and invasive species. Tree-planting (and of course, the lighting of a Christmas tree) are among the activities intended to revive the National Tree.
C-CAM Celebrates International Migratory Bird Day: The Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), which works in the Portland Bight Protected Area, recently celebrated International Migratory Bird Day at its Field Station in Salt River, Clarendon. Students from Portland Cottage Primary School, St.Margaret Mary Preparatory School and Mitchell Town Primary School participated in an information session, field work and creative activities.
“Let’s Eat Them to Beat Them!” Rainforest Seafoods is calling all fisherfolk to help protect Jamaica’s coral reefs and marine life. It is buying all quantities of the invasive #LionFish! Let’s eat them to beat them, please call (876) 953-6688 or (876) 920-3148 for more details. Kudos!
Elsewhere in the World:
UNEP’s Champions of the Earth: UNEP announced the six winners of its Champions of the Earth awards on December 2. One of them, sadly will be awarded posthumously (for Inspiration and Action) to Berta Cáceres, the Honduran environmental and indigenous activist, who was murdered in March this year. The other worthy recipients are President Paul Kagame of Rwanda (for Policy Leadership), for his Government’s efforts to protect the highly endangered Mountain Gorilla and its rainforest habitat; the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (for Entrepreneurial Vision) for its huge project, the Morocco Solar Plan NOOR, the first large-scale capture of solar energy in the Middle East and North Africa; Leyla Acaroglu (for Science and Innovation), a New York-based Australian designer who instigates positive environmental and social change through innovation; José Sarukhán Kermez, founder of Mexico’s National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity; and Afroz Shah, a young Indian lawyer from Mumbai, who started the world’s largest beach clean-up project (so far, over 4,000 tons of trash collected from a 2.5 kilometer beach!)
Impact of warming oceans creates new ecosystem in Australia: Tropical fish that do not normally live in the huge kelp forests of northern New South Wales are now hungrily eating and destroying the kelp. There has been a threefold increase in these species and scientists are connecting this with a 0.6º temperature rise in the ocean. As a result, the ecosystem is gradually changing to a more tropical one. On Australia’s west coast, 100 kilometres of kelp forests were wiped out by a marine heatwave between 2010 and 2013.
Ethiopia’s Yayu Biosphere helps protect organic, wild coffee: The Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere Reserve, recognized by UNESCO, has had some challenges (including regular bush fires) but the Ethiopian Government and NGO partners are seeking to protect and revive the 50,000 hectare reserve, the original home of the most popular coffee in the world (Cafea Arabica). The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Facility is working with NGOs such as the Ethiopia Population, Health and Environment Consortium to develop and market this organic coffee. Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy aims to have for net zero carbon emissions by 2025.
UN Biodiversity Conference under way in Cancun, Mexico: At this important Biodiversity Conference (COP13-COPMOP8-COPMOP2) countries will work on strategic actions to enhance implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and promote the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity targets. The Conference will focus on mainstreaming biodiversity across specific sectors, especially agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and tourism, to contribute to the sustainable development goals, climate action, food security and other human development goals. You can find the Draft Cancun Declaration on Mainstreaming the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity for Well-Being, currently being worked on by ministers and heads of delegations, here. BirdLife International has also issued its own Policy Position on Mainstreaming Biodiversity here.
Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest – Good and Bad News: The bad first: the Amazon rainforest’s rate of deforestation has risen for the second straight year, according to a Brazilian Government report. Very unimpressive. Last year the rate increased by 24 per cent; this year it has risen by 29 per cent. The report this week is based on satellite imagery from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). From August 2015 to July 2016, the Amazon rainforest was deforested at an estimated rate of 7,989 square kilometers (more than 3,000 square miles). Deforestation is a major factor in exacerbating climate change. Now the good news: Brazil pledged (just today, at COP13 in Cancun) to restore 12 million acres of deforested land under the Bonn Challenge, joining 38 other countries, organizations and companies in a global restoration effort spearheaded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Bonn Challenge aims to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.